« The final event in our lecture series. (Online, of course.)
Ayanna Dozier & Nina Cooke John
(Writer, Artist, Lecturer and Curator & Educator and Architect)
Monday 3 May at 5:00 p.m.
Today, New York City’s Hart Island is primarily known as a potter’s field for the burial of unclaimed bodies. With renewed public awareness around its use as a burial ground for those who have died from COVID-19, Hart Island has taken on an additional layer of historical significance given the more severe impact of the pandemic on communities of color. Throughout its storied history, the island has also housed an asylum, jail, and sanatorium—and was once the planned location for an amusement park meant to serve the Black population of 1920s Harlem.
Cities of the Dead traces the imagined (re)construction of Solomon Riley’s park, dubbed “Negro Coney Island,” across an installation of photos, speculative monologues from imagined park attendees, and an architectural rendering of Riley’s abandoned plans co-designed by architect Nina Cooke John. Cities of the Dead establishes an imagined near future in which the park approaches its 100th anniversary in 2024 and unites seemingly disparate threads of Hart Island’s histories together. Hart Island is a site for reflecting on the absence in Black life of architectural spaces for mourning and the way in which gross economic and social inequities frame Black death and plague it in its afterlife.